Barnes speaks to media in season-ending press conference

Tennessee Head Coach Rick Barnes held his first press conference in Knoxville since the Vols’ 63-62 upset loss to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago in the NCAA Tournament last Saturday.

After notching Tennessee basketball’s first regular season SEC Championship in a decade and leading the Volunteers to their best record (26-9, 11-5 SEC) since 2010, Barnes still seeks areas of improvement.

“The word I used a lot was consistency this year… I think individual guys need to be more consistent,” Barnes said. “You really want to get back to fundamentals, conditioning I think is a big part of that.”

Barnes noted one key difference from this year’s NCAA Tournament than his previous 21 times in the Big Dance. He said sophomore center Kyle Alexander’s injury marked the first time he had a player injured in the tournament. However, Barnes did not shy away from complementing the Ramblers and their improbable Final Four run.

“I think they (Loyola-Chicago) have as good of a chance as anybody to win the National Championship,” Barnes said. “When you watch them play they’re a highly efficient offensive team and a very good defensive team.”

The aftermath did not turn out happy-go-lucky for No. 3 seed Tennessee after the Ramblers victory last Saturday according to Barnes, but his team was anxious to get back to work.

“They were devastated, there’s not much you can say” Barnes said. “Starting today they’re all back in the gym. They’re wanting to get back.”

Despite returning every player on the roster except for one, Barnes stated the lone senior on the team, James Daniels III, will be missed.

“He had an impact and we’ll miss what he gave us,” Barnes said. “I thought it was really good the pressure that he put on Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner.”

Barnes did hint that the orange-and-white put high-priority on finding a guard to replace Daniel III. However, he noted that he would rather bring in a high school player than another graduate-transfer.

The hardware did not stop at SEC Coach of the Year for Barnes, as he will be a recipient of the 2018 Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award during the Final Four weekend. The award is given to basketball staff that models high moral character, integrity and faith.

“Well first of all I can tell you there are a lot of guys more deserving of the award than me,” Barnes said. “It’s an honor… He (Wooden) impacted this sport long after he quit coaching.”

Barnes ended his press conference with news that will elate much of the Vols faithful: Tennessee will renew its in-state rival with Memphis next season. Newly hired Tigers Head Coach Penny Hardaway confirmed the news on Monday. The two teams will play one game each in Memphis and Knoxville and finish up with a matchup in the Music City.

“Don’t hold me to this, but I think the way the contract sets up, I think we go there first, they come here,” Barnes said. “We’d like to make it a big day of basketball in Nashville… Some kind of jamboree or extravaganza.”

The Volunteers and Memphis have met 25 times in the past, as Tennessee leads the series 14-11. The last rivalry game ended in an 85-80 win for the Vols in 2013.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Barnes speaks to media in season-ending press conference

Photo by Brad Blackwelder.

Tennessee head basketball coach Rick Barnes held his first press conference in Knoxville since the Vols 63-62 upset loss to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago in the NCAA Tournament last Saturday.

After notching Tennessee basketball’s first regular season SEC Championship in a decade and leading the Volunteers to their best record (26-9, 11-5 SEC) since 2010, Barnes is still searching for areas of improvement.

“The word I used a lot was consistency this year… I think individual guys need to be more consistent,” said Barnes. “You really want to get back to fundamentals, conditioning I think is a big part of that.”

Barnes noted that one thing was different from this year’s NCAA Tournament than his previous 21 times in the Big Dance. He said that sophomore center Kyle Alexander’s injury was the first time he has had a player injured in the tournament. However, Barnes didn’t shy away from complementing the Ramblers and their improbable Final Four run.

“I think they (Loyola-Chicago) have as good of a chance as anybody to win the National Championship,” said Barnes. “When you watch them play they’re a highly efficient offensive team and a very good defensive team.”

Things weren’t so happy-go-lucky for No. 3 seed Tennessee after the Ramblers victory last Saturday according to Barnes, but his team was anxious to get back to work.

“They were devastated, there’s not much you can say” said Barnes. “Starting today they’re all back in the gym. They’re wanting to get back.”

Despite returning every player on the roster except for one player, Barnes stated that the lone senior on the team, James Daniel III, will be missed.

“He had an impact and we’ll miss what he gave us,” Barnes said. “I thought it was really good the pressure that he put on Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner.”

The hardware didn’t stop at SEC Coach of the Year for Barnes, as he will be a recipient of the 2018 Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award during the Final Four weekend. The award is given to basketball staff that models high moral character, integrity and faith.

“Well first of all I can tell you there are a lot of guys more deserving of the award than me,” said Barnes. “It’s an honor… He (Wooden) impacted this sport long after he quit coaching.”

Barnes ended his press conference with news that will elate much of the Vols faithful. Tennessee will renew its in-state rival with Memphis next season and newly hired Tigers head coach Penny Hardaway confirmed the news on Monday. The two teams will play one game each in Memphis and Knoxville and finish up with a matchup in the Music City.

“Don’t hold me to this, but I think the way the contract sets up, I think we go there first, they come here,” said Barnes. “We’d like to make it a big day of basketball in Nashville… Some kind of jamboree or extravaganza.”

The Volunteers and Memphis have met 25 times in the past, as Tennessee leads the series 14-11. The last game of the rivalry ended in an 85-80 win for the Vols in 2013.

Featured image courtesy of Brad Blackwelder

Vols fall to No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago in second round

Head Coach Rick Barnes and the No. 3 seed Volunteers’ season ended with a 63-62 loss to 11th-seeded Loyola-Chicago Saturday night. Tennessee failed to advance to the Sweet 16 despite an and-one from forward Grant Williams, which put the Vols up one point with 20 seconds remaining. Barnes is now 22-23 in NCAA Tournament games in his over 40 years as a head coach.

Ramblers guard Clayton Custer got a friendly roll on a tough jump shot with four seconds left to give Loyola-Chicago a 63-62 lead with four second remaining. Tennessee sophomore guard Jordan Bone put up on off-balance jumper at the buzzer but couldn’t get it to go.

“It’s always a tough way to lose a basketball game with the buzzer beaters,” Barnes said. “I’m proud of our guys, they kept fighting today and finding a way to stay in it.”

The early game looked good for the orange-and-white, as they shot off to a 15-6 run after nearly five minutes of play in the first half. Forward Admiral Schofield had 11 of the Vols 15 points in the run. However, the Ramblers responded with a 23-10 run of their own and went up 29-25 at the halfway point.

“They started making shots,” Schofield said.

Grant Williams added, “We were playing hard, but we really weren’t playing smart.”

At the half, the Volunteers stood at just 39 percent shooting from the field and made just 4-of-13 shots from beyond-the-arc. Meanwhile, Loyola-Chicago filled the bucket with nearly 50 percent shooting after 20 minutes of play. Tennessee made just four of its last 18 shots to end the first half.

The Volunteers fell behind 10 points with four minutes remaining in the contest but cut the deficit down to just two points after a 3-pointer from guard Lamonte Turner. Tennessee finished the monumental comeback with a clutch and-one from Williams to put the Vols up one point.

However, Custer and the Ramblers continued their Cinderella story with a game-winning jumper with 3.6 second remaining in the game. Custer and senior forward Aundre Jackson led Loyola-Chicago with a combined 26 points and six rebounds in the win. The Volunteers had five players with over 10 points in the loss, including a team-high 14 points from Schofield.

“We worked really hard and we brought some excitement around the basketball program again,” Schofield said. “It doesn’t define who we are… We still have some guys that are returning.”

Overall, the Ramblers hit 50 percent of their shots and outrebounded Tennessee by a 27-24 margin on Saturday. The Missouri Valley champions will advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1985, which is the last time they made the NCAA Tournament.

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics

Edited by Lexie Little